Relationship In a 3 year long distance relationship with a veteran with PTSD, he is now avoiding coming to see me after 3 years of not seeing each other

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I dont know what the answer is, all i know is i love him, unconditionally and would do anything to help him and us make it through this.
You might consider the possibility of saying that, or something similar. It's simple and it's true. What he does with it is up to him.
if PTSD sufferers are aware that their reaction to something stems from the PTSD,
That's going to depend on the person and the situation. When I started working with a therapist, I kind of knew I had PTSD but thought I had it handled. He told me, in an email, before my first actual appointment that "if you have PTSD it affects more aspects of your life than you realize." Boy was THAT ever true! I'm more aware of it now. But I still need the space to think about it and some time to realize what's going on. What you experience is intensely REAL, whether it's an accurate reflection of the world as anyone else sees it or not. Maybe imagine that you're walking through the world wearing a pair of glasses that distort things like those fun house mirrors do. Your first task is to realize you're wearing glasses. Then to try to sort out how they affect things. Then try to get an accurate grasp of what's "really going on".

One small example. My T & I were talking about "making progress". I mentioned that I rarely, almost never, bothered to consider whether or not I could beat him to the door. (I choose my place to sit pretty carefully, with that sort of thing in mind.) He smiled and asked, "Did it ever occur to you that I'd just let you leave if you wanted to leave?" Well..... Actually, no, that had never occurred to me. Which probably seems dumb. And it's not an issue everyone has. And I was actually pretty sure my T was safe to be around too. But that's just how my brain has learned to see things. Your friend is going to have his own set of things like that. He might be aware of some or all of them, he might not.
What causes you to choose to not read it and scan it instead?
Reading requires the use of the so called "higher functions" in the brain. PTSD tends to take you right to the more life or death part of the brain. It's hard to read text when your brain is screaming something that suggests the world is coming to an end RIGHT NOW. (Speaking for just me.)
 

Friday

Moderator
What causes you to choose to not read it and scan it instead? Is it the same type of mechanism where it is just too much overwhelm?
Don’t eat for 3-4 days, then go attempt to read a menu at a new restaurant. Unless you’re hypoglycemic, in which case, even a few hours would cause the same effect.

It’s not a choice. It’s a a human thing.

At certain levels of stress the brain becomes incapable of performing certain tasks. Like reading. You see the words. They simply swirl together / don’t possess meaning / are useless to you.

The ability to scan is a hard won skill, from someone who has been dealing with that level of stress for a looooong time. Like, years. And even then? It’s hit or miss.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
do you think he himself is aware this is the reason for our breakup? Would it be triggering to bring this up with him? I dont want to appear as though i am psychoanalyzing him
Easiest way to avoid this? Don't psychoanalyze him.

In other words - what you're getting here is a better understanding of what PTSD is. But whether or not this is specifically at play with your partner - that's something that none of us can be certain of, and yourself included. Given what you've said about how he handled his PTSD -
I dont think he ever saw a therapist, he took 5 years to get through the deep sadness and despair (he told me, he used to cry and drink most nights for a long time).
- it's very possible that he dealt with the worst of the symptoms, and didn't necessarily spend ages deep-diving into the ways PTSD affects stress responses, even in situations where any reasonable person would be stressed. He might not attribute this to a PTSD flare - and, it might not even BE a PTSD flare. It's just that it's possible, that's the thing it's good for you to be aware of.

I think that if you want to ask him directly, "do you think any of your response here is related to PTSD?" - that'd be a fair question to ask. It might open up his own ability to think about the feelings and thoughts he's having. Or, he might confidently say "no, it's not" - and there's absolutely a chance he's totally right about that.

It's good that you seem to have an open line of communication with each other about the situation. Use it. Say what you want to say, is my opinion.
What did he actually say when he broke things off?
^^^ I'd be curious to hear this as well.
 

coraxxx

Policy Enforcement
Something as well that is rather difficult for people who don't have PTSD to grasp is that the emergency shutdown mode can also come as being suddenly very clear or absolutely unemotional. It looks like you're acing it all or simply doing whatever you need to do, and I'm not too sure it even does feel like something once the action/flop mode has been triggered. Many horror moments I had aren't really what were so horrible? Waiting for them and having the time to worry and plan an escape or an action was much, much worse. It's like excruciating, painful, suffering boredom only interrupted by sheer bits of horror.

In a world like this what counts isn't even life or death, it's closer to action/inaction. You don't even conceive there is death around you, that's a given, and even if somehow it's deeply what makes you climb the wall like a fly, it's much denser than the very idea of obliteration. You can't name the void because it's void. Words do shatter.

And in a sense, but this might be truer for people who remained stuck for long in extreme situations, that constant fight against the nothingness very weirdly has some comfort. What you have to do is very clear. Things are a haze and a confusion anyway, and your survival hangs on very fleeting details. Your entire system is driven towards catching them and your speed to respond to these glimpses is crucial.

But back in normal life where you're hassled by a thousand micro decisions every single day, it's hard to triage which one of them means you're going to jump on a landmine (true or metaphorical) and which one is just normal.

In the ones that are the highest functioning, generally preserved areas of functioning will likely to be work, but not without difficulty. I can go relatively quiet for a long time without people even noticing there is something wrong about me. But man, did I have absolutely crazy meltdowns where the world just felt like swallowing me and spitting me back into pieces. It is very hard in these moments not to follow your feelings because they saved your life. Your craziness saved you. And you have to tolerate to shut down what could save you.

Now that I do know this is pee tee ess dee, there is more damage control but the way my brain does this now is to dissociate when any feeling, including joy, goes about a certain threshold. It's physical and there is very little I can do. I feel an emotion coming up then it cuts, like pulling the plug out. It is protective and in a way I am happy there is this mechanism but it doesn't make me exactly accessible to normal life. It also has emerged from periods of trauma were traumatic flight or fight type responses became highly hazardous, so the best thing I could do was to flop and play dead. Literally. It's completely possible to develop nested triggers, and that would be very specific to each person.

I guess what I mean is that there in the way that "there is more to it than a normal stress response", is that it's not just about the intensity of the response to stress, it's also about the style of response to stress. It can be intense, flickering, outright weird or be absent. It can be very inconsistent and volatile. It's not something linear, and it makes it even harder to tackle because of this.
 
Had you discussed moving to his country at all? I wonder how he would feel.about you visiting him for a short while, rather than him visiting you?
Today I had a meeting to attend (very simple, only 20-30 mins long and had my fiancé with me). I've done this sort of meeting a million times before without issue, yet today, post lockdowns, post otsd symptoms being realised, I felt sick, my stomach was in knots, physically painful. My jaw hurts from tension, I can't sleep and cried because I'm petrified of how all this will affect my fiancé, and he's already suffered more than anyone should ever have too (he witnessed and suffered trauma with me which caused depression for quite a while, but has not had ptsd symptoms). I don't even want to rhibk about visiting a big city, let alone move to one! I just couldn't cope right now. I'm not saying never, but definitely not now.

And I totally agree with the short email if it has to be an email. I can't lie, I've literally just started to skim through a few posts because my brain is fried. Think of it like total sensory overload. You want to read it, but the overload means there's literally no space left in the brain for it so you physically can't take it in. That's how it feels for me anyway.

You mentioned at times of high stress (I'm assuming ptsd flare up, hyper vigilance, possibly flash backs etc) that he can't read the wall of text and prefers to talk on the phone. This is definitely me too! Many times very recently I should/could have sent an email, but my brain couldn't compute and the anxiety of waiting for a response was too much for me to take. How would a phone call be instead of the email? Just a thought x
 
Thank you all for your comments......an update since we broke up....we kept talking every day for hours every day, twice a day, like normal, we still added heart emojis to the texts we would send throughout each day also....so, nothing really changed as far as our routines or daily interactions with each other.....but as the weeks went on, I got more and more stressed, because I was holding out hope, hoping he would change his mind.
This stress finally came to a head in a conversation six weeks later (after the breakup), when I told him I dont think I can be in contact just as his friend, it is too hard, when I love him and want to be with him....

It was a 3 and a half hour very sad conversation, both of us crying and not wanting to hang up.
I know I need time to heal and "get over him", if it is never meant to be, but he is my best friend, my everything, and I feel so incredibly lost and sad and totally joyless without him. We have sent a few texts here and there since (this was 2 weeks ago) and he admits how he is struggling too and grasping at straws, not sleeping at night (2 hours max) ...we are both really suffering....

I still dont know if it is his PTSD stopping him from coming here and committing,.......even though we were stressed for so long (well i was mainly.....he was always "in the present" ) due to the covid lockdowns and visa issues and not seeing each other for 2 and a half years, i feel that if he was neurotypical, (whatever that is these days) or had no military trauma, he would have still come, and our stressful times would not have been a barrier. Its made me question who i am , if i am good enough, or if i stressed too much, am too much for anyone :( I think ANYONE dealing with the pandemic and a long distance relationship would struggle, even WITHOUT the pandemic, a long distance relationship breaks most people, let alone two and a half years without seeing each other.....I worried about a lot of things, when our borders would open, then the stressful visa process, all that went wrong with that and how it took so long....it was not easy. Now i feel almost judged, as if i shouldnt have been so stressed...it was so stressful, for so long......

Just rambling now, apologies....I feel so lost, so sad. I sit at home all day and cry, alone. I dont have a job right now and cant imagine working or even leaving my house. All our life plans, gone. I still dont really know why. Was it me? Is it him? I spend hours reading this website for help, reddit, others, doing whatever i can to make it make sense. I wrote him a long email right after we decided no more talking, and stated everything, that i would do whatever it takes, therapy, forums, reading up on attachment styles....I do this stuff ALL THE TIME, yet he wont do anything. He doesnt think his PTSD is affecting his life, but he cant go into a supermarket for long without stress, the fireworks, the crowds, the noises....the shutting down and emotionally disregulating when we go heated, the dissociation at times.....is any of that neuro typical? I am NOT in ANY way judging him, I feel so heartbroken he went through what he did in combat, but to me, it doesnt sound like he does not have any symptoms, and that our relationship breakup had nothing to do with his PTSD......I may be wrong, we never argued badly, no screaming or swearing, i was always respectful, we are both very sensitive people, and need to be understood, so our conversations often became draining becuase we would go around and around for hours trying to get the other one to understand.....it always came from a good place though....


Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated....I feel so empty and deeply sad right now without him in my life at all. How can I be friends with him if I love him so much? Is that even possible, if it wont ever be?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
You’re trying to rationalize the irrational. He has a mental illness, and you cannot logic that away.

That is the answer you’re seeking. He has a mental illness. What he does will not make sense to anybody but him. The end.

You have to grieve, not torture yourself over “what if he was healthy.” It is what it is. He’s not healthy like that. That’s another big supporter trap… “if he was better XYZ” or “if he never had PTSD XYZ.” That’s not reality. Everybody has those thoughts. Hell, I have those thoughts sometimes too, but you cannot get hung up on that. Being romantically involved with somebody with mental health issues is not romantic, it’s reality.
 
You’re trying to rationalize the irrational. He has a mental illness, and you cannot logic that away.

That is the answer you’re seeking. He has a mental illness. What he does will not make sense to anybody but him. The end.

You have to grieve, not torture yourself over “what if he was healthy.” It is what it is. He’s not healthy like that. That’s another big supporter trap… “if he was better XYZ” or “if he never had PTSD XYZ.” That’s not reality. Everybody has those thoughts. Hell, I have those thoughts sometimes too, but you cannot get hung up on that. Being romantically involved with somebody with mental health issues is not romantic, it’s reality.
I appreciate your response Sweetpea, albeit terse, but i guess i get your message. I am hurting a lot, so pretty sensitive right now. I dont know if HE even thinks or realises the PTSD is a factor, he says straight out it isn't, that is what is so confusing. Is he lying to himself? You said "what he does will not make sense to anybody but him"....does it make sense to him? Is he projecting and lying to himself or does he really truly realise its his PTSD stoppng him? This whole thing is completely soul destroying and I cannot even make sense of it to help myself move on. I feel he is really suffering and i am adding to that by not being able to be in contact with him and be his "friend" and talk every day.....but it so hard to do that. I am just trying to understand, thats a lot more than a lot of people do.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Whether he knows or doesn’t know it’s PTSD doesn’t mean he could stop the behavior. He’s going to do what he’s going to do to cope. My partner knows that he lets me down or hurts me at times, but that doesn’t mean he can just stop doing it. He works on it, but he has a mental illness. It’s not a choice like quitting cigarettes or something. It’s like asking a diabetic to eat cake to make you happy. They may want to eat the cake to make you happy, but they just physically cannot handle it.

Everybody thinks the advice supporters give is “mean.” It’s not that it’s mean. Sugarcoating the reality of mental illness would be meaner in the long run. We have had to accept reality a looooooong time ago. There is nothing abstract or romantic about it. If we could solve PTSD relationship troubles with love or good conversation we would. The fact is we all had to have the reality slap.
 
Whether he knows or doesn’t know it’s PTSD doesn’t mean he could stop the behavior. He’s going to do what he’s going to do to cope. My partner knows that he lets me down or hurts me at times, but that doesn’t mean he can just stop doing it. He works on it, but he has a mental illness. It’s not a choice like quitting cigarettes or something. It’s like asking a diabetic to eat cake to make you happy. They may want to eat the cake to make you happy, but they just physically cannot handle it.

Everybody thinks the advice supporters give is “mean.” It’s not that it’s mean. Sugarcoating the reality of mental illness would be meaner in the long run. We have had to accept reality a looooooong time ago. There is nothing abstract or romantic about it. If we could solve PTSD relationship troubles with love or good conversation we would. The fact is we all had to have the reality slap.
Thankyou, I just never saw it coming, honestly, he promised me everything would be ok for almost three years, then suddenly when he COULD come here to see me, the reality hit him. He said he didnt think about the reality and all the things that had to be done and could go wrong until our borders opened and he got the visa and it was real. I trusted his words when he said it would be ok no matter what. I trusted him when he said his PTSD is not a factor. That is why this is all so hard to accept, and so sudden. I feel blindsided

What are your thoughts on remaining friends? I feel like he is really sufferering (as am I) because I had to cease talking to him on the phone every day becuase it is so very hard for me when I love him so much. I dont want to hurt him and make it harder for him when he is already suffering. I wish he never joined the military, he has suffered enough :(

and i really appreciate your advice, it is helping, a lot, i feel less like it is "my fault" and able to somehow make sense of it

ps: is it common for people with (combat) PTSD to NOT go to therapy or want to talk to someone, anyone?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
I think one of the cruelest things about PTSD is the ability to mask during the honeymoon phase. You have no idea what PTSD really is until after you’re well and good in love, then you get a full dose square in the face and you wonder what happened to your loved one. The truth is *this* is really your loved one. Before was them masking until they felt comfortable.

Your man probably was able to mask for a loooooooooooong time because of the distance.

As far as being friends, you cannot martyr yourself to help him. It’s not going to fix his PTSD. He’s an adult, he made a choice. These are the consequences. You are not responsible for his mental health.

As far as combat PTSD and therapy goes, it’s probably just as individual as each vet. Some may seek out care and be very receptive to treatment. Others may be a treatment resistant stubborn ass. I know if he’s American the VA is a joke when it comes to mental health care. My vet has been in and out of treatment for 15 years or so. He did a stretch of inpatient care, and honestly, he needs it again. He’s unfortunately the stubborn ass variety.
 
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